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INSPECTION BY GENERALS RUSLING AND HAZEN.
THE SECRETARY OF WAR,
IN ANSWER TO
A resolution of the House of January 3, transmitting reports of inspection made
by Generals Rusling and Hazen.
JANUARY 19, 1867.-Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
Washington City, January 15, 1867. Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a letter from the Adjutant General of January 15, coverivg reports of tours of inspection made by Generals Rusling and Hazen, called for by a resolution of the House of Representatives of January 3, 1867. Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War. Hon. SCHUYLER COLFAX,
Speaker of the House of Representatires.
WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Washington, January 15, 1867. Sir: In compliance with your instructions of the 3il instant, I have the honor to submit herewith the following papers called for by resolution of the House of Representatives of the same date:
1st. Copy of report of Brevet Major General W B. Hazen, acting inspector general, department of the Platte, dated October 16, 1866, from the records of this office.
2d. Letter of the Acting Quartermaster General, of this date, transmitting copies of reports, as far as received, of Brevet Brigadier General James F. Rusling, inspector quartermaster's department, of inspections made by him during the past season on a tour westward from the Mississippi river to the Pacific coast. I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant General. Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
CAMP DOUGLAS, UTAH TERRITORY,
October 16, 1866. Having completed the duties contemplated by special orders from headquarters department of the Platte, directing me to inspect the mountain district and report upon that and o her points, I now furnish the following as my final report, which will close my duties as acting inspector general of the department:
After leaving Omaha the soil of the Platte valley is highly productive for nearly two bundred miles, yielding abundantly with the ordinary methods of American farming. At about that point, or near old Fort Kearney, the soil becomes thin and weak and the atmosphere dry, and continues so all the way to the dividing ridge of the Rocky mountains, and west of them in Montana, Idaho, and Utalı, so far as I have seen.
Of this entire country one half may be considered of no value, the other half, for pastoral purposes, of about one-tenth the value of good grazing land in the boriliern States. Of this last half, on an average of about one acre in one thousand, can be made abundantly productive by irrigation and in no other way. These last points are found near springs under the mountains, or the immediate borders of most of the streams, and in the valleys of Sun, Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers. Each of these streams have fine rich valleys of from one to five miles in breadth, and from fifty to one hundred miles in length, all of which can be irrigated and cultivated. In the Great Salt Lake basin, along the base of the Wasatch mountains, and in the narrow valleys of the western slope of these mountains is good cultivable land, with abundant springs for irrigation. This section is about five hundred and fifty miles in length; and if all the good land could be placed in one piece, it would have a breadth for the entire length of not more than ten miles. These lands are nearly all occupied by the Mormons, making a population of about one bundred thousand.
Three-fourths of all the country passed over is made up of mountain ranges. Wild grasses of various qualities grow thinly over nearly all of it. Scattering cottonwood trees, occasionally thickening into grasees, border the streams, and on the sides of some of the mountains pine timber grows of a good quality.
Whatever mineral wealth the country may have can only be known when it is developed. It has large amounts of coal and some iron. Its precious metals, as at present produced, are damaging to the country at large, as they draw bere ten times as much capital and labor as finds profitable employment.
The country has little value, and can never be sold by government at more than nominal rates. It will in time be settled by a scanty pastoral population. No amount of railroads, schemes of colonization, or government encouragement can ever make more of it.
The roads in all these Territories consist principally of a few main lines traversing the entire belt from the Missouri river to the Pacific, and one from Benton south through Montana, Utah, and the Mormon settlements towards the Colorido. These are all excellent natural roads, except the one from Benton souib, where chartered companies have expended large sums in improving them and building bridges, exacting tolls for their use. Although they have been a great public benefit, their rates are excessive. There are toll ferries over the Big Horn and Yellowstone, but government teams and horses are not charged.
I have, respectfully, to recommend the establishment of a wagon road from some point on the Missouri river near the mouth of the Muscle Shell, to the Powder River road, near Fort C. F. Smith, with a branch keeping up the north side of the Yellowstone to the point where a new post should be established next year. The routes indicated on the map enclosed are practicable, but should be passed over by the officer in charge of the work before selecting the best. I bad not time to make these selections, only ascertaining positively the practicability of the route. My own route did not extend to the mouth of the Muscle Shell by some forty miles, and I have been informed by intelligent citizens that, on account of the bad lands, it would be much better to start from a point some thirty or forty miles above the mouth of that stream. All this should be left to the discretion of the officer having the work in charge, after seeing all the routes, It will require a ferry to cross the Yellowstone. It is about 500 feet wide, and swift enough to carry the boat across by the current. A detachment will be necessary at the crossing. The river is bordered with the finest growth of cottonwood I ever saw. The boat could be built on the spot by sheathing the bottom, to be made of hewn slabs, with panlin, and putting in a strong false bottom. The tackling, cable, &c., should be sent up from below.
Opening this road up to the Yellowstone towards Gallatin would be of great value to the people of Montana. Gallatin would then be reached within 250 miles from safe and certain navigation on the Missouri, as near as from Fort Benton, and without the dangers of the rapids.
I have strongly to recommend the opening of these roads by troops. The immense appropriations of money by Congress for these western roads show no fruits. It is all dissipated in salaries and pay of men who travel across the country, but never stop to do any
labor. I have yet to see the first indication of any work expended on roads by any of the numerous parties sent out by Congress with large appropriations of money to build wagon
roads. I have to recommend Lieutenant and Quartermaster W. H. Keeling, thirteenth infantry, now at Camp Cook, as a proper person to locate and execute this work. Its proper accomplishment will depend very much upon who is detailed to carry it out.
If he could receive his instructions so as to move with the early spring with two companies, everything could be made ready for receiving and forwarding the next year's suppl.es to the upper posts. The distance from Fort C. F. Smith to the Missouri is about 150 miles. The road need not be longer. Parties of responsibility have assured me that freights need not cost more than six cents per pound from St. Louis to this point, (Muscle Shell. )
There is a deception practiced upon the people going overland to Montana that should be made public. The parties interested in the Powder River road have published and erected a guide-board where this road branches from the old South Pass road, that it is but 425 miles from that point to Virginia City by their route, when, in fact, it is - miles measured by the odometer. Every one interested in this country systematically deceives everybody else with regard to it.
For the use of the officer detailed for this work I enclose a copy of my diary, marked A, from the time I left Fort C. F. Smith till I left the Muscle Shell.
POSTS AND DISTRIBUTION OF TROOPS.
The posts now established in the mountain district are correctly located, and with another near the Big Bend of the Yellowstone, the route will have all the posts it will be advantageous to establish. In addition to this, the commanding officer of the district should be directed to establish block-houses, to be temporarily held, on one of the forks of the Cheyenne, on Crazy Woman, and on one of the forks of the Tongue river. The commanding officer should use his discretion as to all minor points of these locations. Two coinpanies are sufficient for each of the four posts and the block-houses nearest it, and in case of active operations the posts could be reduced to thirty men without risk.
Cavalry could be best disposed at the post nearest Gallatin ou account of for
age, which can be obtained there in abundance and at moderate cost The ani. mals might, in fact, be subsisted at the valley at times of inactivity ; but I would not recommend the permanent posting of any troops at Gallatin or west of there, At Sun river I would recommend the establishment of a post of two companies. It is a good point for cavalry. The road from the inines to Benton is a very important one. The Indians leave that section in the summer and go north, but in the winter they are in the habit of coming down, killing and burning every. thing. If cavalry is to come here for service, I would recommend the purchasing of half-breed horses, as they can subsist without forage on the native grasses of the country. The American horses are of no service without grain. I tried them from C. F. Smith to Benton, as I have frequently done previously. They set out thin and weak, and after three or four days are of no use. Abundance of half-breed horses can be bought in Virginia City and Salt Lake city, by contracting early, at about $70. The Mormon church has now nearly a thousand on one of the islands in Salt lake, that Major Grimes, quartermaster of this post, informs me can be bought. The difference in usefulness in favor of the half-breed horse is worthy of earnest attention. If these horses are furnished the cavalry, either Fort Phil. Kearney or C. F. Smith would be good cavalry posts, but not otherwise.
As to the troops on the Upper Missouri, I am of the opinion that the posts should all be broken up. They are now very remote, and supplied at great ex. pense. They are not situated near the line of any road, nor at the beginning or terminus of any now built, or likely to be in the future, if we except Fort Sully. They give little or no protection to the navigation of the river, and can never become nuclei of colonization from the utter poverty of the country.
The post at the mouth of the Judith is at a point where neither white nor red men ever go, and its location'is the subject of ridicule with every man I have met in the Territories.
Enough of the material could be floated down on rafts in the spring to establish warehouses and quarters for two companies near the Muscle Shell. Then if a detachment of two companies were sent up the river in the spring, with early navigation, to return with the latest, I would consider the river much more ad. vantageously occupied that at present. This would release a large force of troops for active purposes.
I am contident our troops are too inactive. They should be so disposed as to give the greatest amount of vigorous field service. I wonld place no troops in the mining regions, as miners are better Indian fighters than soldiers, are numerous, and always armed and organized for defence.
The route for supplying the new post now established has been already discussed.
There are always large trains in the upper country, particularly in Gallarin valley, that could be advantageously employed to take supplies from the l'pper Missouri to their destination. The navigation of the Yellowstone for supplying is worthy of further and full attention.
Flour of a good quality can be bought in Gallatin valley for nine cents per pound, and beef for eighty dollars per pair for oxen that a few months' grazing would make excellent beef. Good flour here can be had for seven cents.
Hay in abundance can be cut at all points I have visited, except Reno. Small grain is too high to furnish in large quantities for animals, except in eilses of emergency; at Benton I paid twenty cents for corn, at Helena fifteen cents, and at Virginia City twelve and a half cents for barley, and they cannot be expected cheaper in years to come.
This point probably furnishes grain at lower rates than any on this side of the Missouri. Oats at seventy-nine cents per bushel. The stories of fine grasses